Feb 21, 2017

Shirakawa-go, Japan

We boarded the bus (Gifu Bus) at Meitetsu Bus Center at 9:00am and was expected to reach Shirakawa-go at 11:53am, it took a little longer and we reached Shirakawa-go Bus Terminal 白川郷バスターミナル at around 12:30pm.

Image courtesy of Meitetsu

Located in the Gifu Prefecture, Shirakawa-go is the first place I parked in our Nagoya trip itinerary as it has become an increasingly popular travel destination - I've seen friends posting photos of their trip to Shirakawa-go on Facebook and Instagram back in 2016. It thus became the highlight of our trip this time round and I certainly prayed for a smooth journey there.

Looking out of the bus window on our way up the Gifu mountains and the amount of snow was surely something that reminisce my student exchange experience in Sweden. I was surprised at Kenneth's calmness when he told me that that's his first time seeing snow (well, I would have been overly excited like a little kid if I were him).

The moment I alighted, I regretted that I was pretty underdressed for this harsh weather - merely a long sleeve T-shirt underneath my winter jacket, a pair of gloves, a pair of jeans and a single pair of socks underneath my usual pair of shoes, and it's −2°C.

Pickup point for Tenshukaku Observatory

We started walking southwards and realized there's this spot that people are queuing, and of course, it's the pickup point for the observatory. We boarded and paid ¥200 fare when we alighted at the Tenshukaku Observatory 天守閣展望台.

The view of the village from the observatory was simply mesmerizing.

Javin Tham, PMP, PMI-ACP, CSSBB Musician | Engineer | YouTube Coverist

Jan 18, 2017

Certified Six Sigma Black Belt (CSSBB)

I started taking the ASQ Six Sigma certifications in March 2016, to be specific, I took Certified Six Sigma Yellow Belt (CSSYB) in March 2016 and Certified Six Sigma Green Belt (CSSGB) in June 2016.

Unlike Yellow Black and Green Belt, a Certified Six Sigma Black Belt candidate is required to have two completed projects with signed affidavits or one completed project with signed affidavit and 3 years of work experience in one or more areas of the Six Sigma Body of Knowledge.

I already have more than 3 years of work experience in Cameron and so I used one of my Six Sigma Green Belt projects (Warehouse Picking Cycle Time Reduction) in Cameron as my affidavit, signed by the Operations Manager, who was my project champion.

I was still a member of ASQ, so I enjoyed the discounted exam fee at US$388 (S$570).
My last day in Cameron was 6 Jan 2017 and I'm joining Seagate as a Lean Engineer, and so I requested to join Seagate on 19 Jan 2017, which is a day after my CSSBB exam, so strategically I have time to study at ease during the period I was jobless.

ASQ has recently phased in computer-based testing, so similar to PMP and PMI-ACP, the CSSBB exam is delivered by Prometric testing centers, and again, Kenneth and I booked our slots at the King's Arcade branch.

Good things about computer-based testing:
  • You'll know your results immediately after submitting the answers.
  • No more pencil marking and erasing.
And also a few bad things about computer-based testing::
  • Unlike pencil-based testing, all materials accompanied (it's open-book exam for CSSBB) into the examination room are strictly inspected by the proctor. To sum it up, make sure your materials are binded, not stapled; and no sample Q&A portion can be taken in - they flip through almost every page to check on that.
  • When it comes to reviewing each question, you have to click one by one as one question is displayed in one screen, so you can't take an quick overview of a section.

Why Six Sigma certifications?

I had my first job landed in Cameron as a Global Rotational Development Program trainee, ever since then, I was exposed to the Six Sigma methodology because Cameron was a Lean Six Sigma enterprise.

I'm thankful that I was given the opportunity to lead the warehouse project which also served as my very first Lean Six Sigma Green Belt project. This first step was important in keeping me motivated further to subsequent Green Belt projects, which in time I closed a total of 3 Green Belt projects, entitling me to be certified as a Cameron certified Six Sigma Green Belt.

I believe it's the success and job satisfaction derived from project results and deliverables that made me persevere in the Lean Six Sigma discipline, to the point that I wanted to take ASQ Six Sigma certifications and considered this field for my future career.

How did I prepare for CSSBB?

You probably don't want to follow my footstep for this, because I only seriously started to study 2-3 weeks before the exam. Do a search online for tips, they'll tell you to start preparing at least a few months before hand.

The reason why I did last minute preparation is because I was busy (actually, lazy... XD). Also, I have read one of the modules in my Master of Science program in NUS last year, titled Applied Engineering Statistics, which comprises of the essential topics in inferential statistics. This saved me a lot of time going through topics in hypothesis testing, ANOVA, regression, DOE etc.

The two most common preparation materials available are:

I used the CSSBB Primer (2014 Edition) I already had there available from someone else. I personally have not gone through the handbook so I can't judge which book prepares the candidate better. But what I can say is, the real exam questions are pretty similar to the CSSBB Primer Solutions Text.

It's a 165-question, 4.5-hour-long exam, where 15 of them are unscored. I finished and submitted my answer in 3 hours because I just don't feel like wait any longer. It's pretty draining as well for 165 questions, but I told myself that I had worse from PMP, which was 200-question.

As mentioned, the results will show on the screen after the answers are submitted, and thank God, I passed.

I do feel contented with the certifications I've achieved so far, CSSYB, CSSGB, CSSBB, PMP and PMI-ACP, all done within 10 months on first try, while I was still studying for my master's degree. Grateful.

Javin Tham, PMP, PMI-ACP, CSSBB Musician | Engineer | YouTube Coverist